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Belcourt - Nashville's Nonprofit Cinema

History / Mission

MISSION


The Belcourt Theatre's mission is to engage, enrich, and educate through innovative film programming in our historic theatre, our community, and beyond.

HISTORY


The Belcourt Theatre is a unique Nashville treasure with a vibrant historic past and deep roots in the community. Today, the Belcourt is a nonprofit cultural institution dedicated to presenting the best of independent, documentary, world, repertory and classic cinema. The Belcourt provides opportunities for people of all ages to discover, explore and learn through the power of film. We cultivate and build on the powerful sense of shared experience that audiences can achieve — taking advantage of our building’s physical character and location in the heart of a lively Nashville neighborhood. At the same time, we work with community partners throughout Nashville and Middle Tennessee to bring inspiring films to children and young people with our Mobile Movie Theatre.

Today, the Belcourt Theatre thrives—and reopens on July 22, 2016 after a renovation and preservation project, the building's first major work in 50 years. The Belcourt is recognized as one of Nashville's most vibrant arts organizations and as a leader among the country's art houses regionally and nationally. The Belcourt attracts audiences from throughout Middle Tennessee and the Southeast region, as well as visitors from more than 44 states and from five other countries — a total of approximately 160,000 visitors annually. We program over 300 films a year, with more 2,300 screenings. Over 13,600 people participate in our yearly in-theatre engagement programs, including Q&As with filmmakers and conversations with experts, scholars and community commentators. More than 1,300 students in our community benefit from film programming and visual literacy activities through our Mobile Movie Theatre visits in conjunction with 35 partner schools or organizations.

 

BELCOURT TIMELINE


  • 1925 | Opens as the Hillsboro Theater to show silent movies, with a Kimball organ, 800 leather-covered seats, and Nashville’s largest stage
  • 1930s | First performance of the Children’s Theatre of Nashville and home to the Grand Ole Opry (1934-1936)
  • 1937 | Renamed Nashville Community Playhouse and is the site for community events, theatre and film
  • 1966 | Renamed the Belcourt Cinema — and returns to its original use as a movie house
  • 1993 | Carmike (and the Massey family) ends a successful 30-year lease of the Belcourt Theatre; Watkins Film joins Belcourt LLC to manage the building
  • 1999 | Belcourt LLC closes the Belcourt, and the building is leased by the nonprofit Belcourt YES! group
  • 2003 | Thomas Wills, a founding member of Belcourt YES!, purchases the theatre
  • 2007 | Belcourt YES! group purchases the theatre from Mr. Wills and formalizes the name as the Belcourt Theatre Inc.
  • 2008-2011 | Belcourt supporters give generously to fund new seats, draping, carpeting and aisle lighting
  • 2014 | The Belcourt celebrates 15 years as a nonprofit cultural organization.
  • 2015 | On May 18, 2015, the Belcourt turns 90 years old.
  • 2015 | On Sept 10, 2015, the Belcourt Campaign is publicly announced. On Dec 24, the Belcourt closes for renovation and construction on its 90-year-old theatre — a project supported by the Belcourt Campaign.
  • 2016 | On July 22, 2016, the Belcourt reopens after renovation and preservation, the first major work on the building in 50 years.

THE PAPA JOE LIGHTMAN AWARD


At the age of 16, Joseph "Papa Joe" Lightman immigrated with his family to the United States from Hungary. He opened his first Nashville business in 1887, and his endeavors included a fruit stand in Nashville’s downtown area, a confectioner's booth, a saloon, a dry goods store and a construction company. Papa Joe and his son, M. A. Lightman, built and owned the Hillsboro Theatre in 1925. The name and original entrance on 21st Avenue (then Hillsboro Road) are still marked by a sign above the building now occupied by the Villager Tavern. After several changes of ownership, multiple uses and physical modifications, it was named the Belcourt Theatre in 1966.

Connecting the Belcourt’s history with its future, the Papa Joe Lightman Award honors individuals whose significant and exceptional contributions of energy, resources and passion help the Belcourt keep alive and well Papa Joe’s vision of a vibrant theatre in the heart of Hillsboro Village. The Belcourt is indebted to current and past honorees for their hard work, their vision and their support.

  • 2016 | Holly Hoffman and Amos Gott
  • 2015 | Donna Drehmann
  • 2014 | Randy Rayburn
  • 2013 | Edward D. Lanquist Jr.
  • 2012 | Mark Chalos and David Maddox
  • 2011 | H.G. Webb
  • 2010 | Joan Cheek and Mimi Manzler
  • 2009 | Melissa Taylor
  • 2008 |Tom Wills
  • 2007 | Kellie Conn and F. Clark Williams, Jr.
  • 2006 | Pat Bullard
  • 2005 | Jayne Gordon
  • 2004 | Laura Ellis, Scott Manzler, and Will Cheek III
  • 2003 | Chase Cole
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